Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Frank Review of "Night of the Comet" (1984)

The Short Version? The Omega Valley Girls
What Is It? Horror Comedy.
Who Is In It? Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager, that girl from Chopping Mall
Should I See It? Yes.

I first caught this flick late at night on local television around 1989. There's something special about being young, dumb, semi-conscious, and exposed to heavy doses of '80s action-comedy mixed with sci-fi horror that made it irresistible then and continues to please me now. From the cornball narration and Casio synth that opens the feature, you are well prepared to take none of this seriously, which is essential. There is no way you can call this a quality production (budget estimates: $700,000-3M,) but for the love of Pete, it's inherently kewl. Take Charlton Heston out of The Omega Man, replace him with cute chicks, keep the automatic weapons, and spice with flesh eating zombies. What's not to love?

Catherine Mary Stewart plays theater usherette Regina, whose late night tryst with the projectionist saves her from bearing witness to the comet that killed the dinosaurs. It handled humanity twice as well, turning the majority of the population into a fine red powder. By divine intervention or plot contrivance, Reggie's cheerleader sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney) also manages to survive. The less fortunate continue a terminal half-life, their minds and bodies deteriorating, and their intentions murderous. The pair soon meet another "normal" person, truck driver Hector (Robert Beltran,) which sets up romantic conflict between the sisters. Separately and as a group, the three have episodic adventures in post-apocalyptic L.A.

The horror influences, from The Last Man on Earth to The Twilight Zone are obvious, down to a rewrite of Ben's recollection from Night of the Living Dead. However, unlike 28 Days Later..., Comet owes its tone more to the Amy Heckerling and John Hughes school than Romero and Fulci. Part of what makes the movie so much fun is its balance between legitimate tension, and its taking the piss out of itself the rest of the time. Someone in production obviously had connections to local L.A. acts, as there's a hefty soundtrack of polished tunes that never made it to the radio, but evoke their era nicely. Part of the movie's charm is its utter lack of meaning, and its representation of period excess, rejecting every criticism Dawn of the Dead made with a big grin and turn of its padded shoulder. If you love the Reagan era and would like to see a progenitor to the Screams and Buffy the Vampire Slayers of the 90s, look here.


wiec? said...

this is one of those countless movies i saw a lot on HBO when i was a kid and totally forgot about.

i used to have a biiiig crush on Catherine Mary Stewart. wonder what ever happened to her?

glad to hear this still holds up. gotta hunt this one down for a rewatch.

Diabolu Frank said...

It just hit DVD last year, at the very reasonable price of $9.95 or less.


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